Trailblazers: Annika Monari and Alan Vey, Aventus
Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.
From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with O Beach Ibiza’s Tony Truman, here.)
This week Trailblazers welcomes its first-ever joint interviewees: Alan Vey and Annika Monari, founders and co-CEOs of blockchain ticketing start-up Aventus Systems.
Aventus is the developer of the Aventus Protocol, an open-source Ethereum-based protocol that aims to create a “more fair, secure and transparent event ticketing industry” by eliminating counterfeiting and unauthorised ticket resale.
Since launching in 2106, the company has secured partnerships with new entertainment venture Kind Heaven, located at the Caesars Entertainment-owned LINQ Promenade in Las Vegas, as well as bringing on board the likes of Professor Mike Waterson, who recently released a follow-up to his 2016 secondary ticketing review, and former Eventim UK MD Rob Edwards.
Aventus raised US$20m in an initial coin offering (ICO) last September to fund its vision of a global standard for ticketing.
How did you get your starts in the industry?
Vey: I did my thesis on film rights distribution with Bafta and the BBC at Imperial College London with help from Professor Will Knottenbelt, the director of the Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering. Annika and I made a killer team so we started Aventus after researching what blockchain technology can bring to solve core challenges in the entertainment industry.
Monari: When it came to the ticketing industry, neither of us had any prior experience other than as consumers. We don’t see ourselves as a ticketing company – we’re a software company building IaaS [infrastructure as a service] and SaaS [software as a service] solutions into the ticketing and wider entertainment industry. We want to strengthen and support existing ticketing providers using cutting-edge solutions on the blockchain.
Tell us about your current roles.
Monari: We founded Aventus together and are now joint CEOs. Our day-to-day role includes the development, marketing and growth of the Aventus protocol and associated infrastructure, as well as the technology that allows ticketing companies and inventory rights-holders to get commercial benefits from the blockchain.
Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
Vey: For both of us, Professor Knottenbelt has had a huge influence after introducing us to the Ethereum blockchain. He also introduced us to Daniel Masters, CEO of Global Advisors and chair of Coinshares, who secured us funding just months after we finished university and helped make our token-sale launch a reality.
Monari: Mike Jones, the former CEO of Myspace and the founder of Science Inc., a venture-building studio and incubator, taught us some invaluable lessons on how to build relationships and get to market quickly. Also, Cary Granat, CEO of Immersive Artistry and former president at Miramax, has been a key mentor in the events industry world. We teamed up together for Kind Heaven, an immersive Las Vegas experience which will become one of our first proof of concepts for ticketing on the blockchain.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Monari: It’s cool being able to go to a traditional company and a huge player in the industry – someone who is very knowledgeable but quite set in their ways – and introduce them to something new. We lead them through the process, get them to understand and engage, and when you succeed it’s very rewarding.
“The music industry can be very traditional and resistant to change”
Vey: Getting a great team together and being able to build industry changing products is very rewarding. Going out to meet all these important people in the entertainment space and bring good news and exciting relationships back to our team always feels great.
And the most challenging?
Vey: We haven’t done this before, so people think we have no idea because we’re young, or try to take us for a ride. We’ve publicly raised a lot of money, so certain people look at us like a piggy bank. We’ve tried to address this by hiring a senior and experienced management team with a background in the entertainment industry who can bring that gravitas to the table.
Monari: It’s hard to hire the right people. Mike Jones gave us a lot of mentorship and advice around who and how to hire, and there are two types of people we look for. The first are really driven, vibrant, hungry people, who are perhaps less experienced but want to make a difference and to learn. Then there are the heavy hitting industry experts, who will bring that expertise and perform at a high level, bringing real ROI.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Monari: The token sale itself was an incredible moment. Having come up with an idea, standing in front of tens of thousands of people pitching it, and then having it validated to the degree where people crowdfund you in minutes is really an amazing feeling.
We worked so hard for six months and we were almost in tears one day. At that point we knew that even if we didn’t get there, we’d given it everything we could.
What, if anything, do you think the music industry could do better?
Monari: The music industry can be very traditional and resistant to change. The way they do things is entrenched, so coming in with new technology can be challenging.
The way we see it, events – and entry to those events – have existed since before the Colosseum in Roman times. It’s an age-old industry and we’re trying to introduce the tools to do things in a more efficient and technologically driven way.
If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on email@example.com.
How technology can end ticket touting for good
This week’s news that Ticketmaster is closing its secondary websites Seatwave and Get Me In! sent shockwaves across the ticketing industry – but most agree this is a step in the right direction when it comes to combatting touting and preventing sky-high prices in the secondary market.
Secondary sales will still be permitted through Ticketmaster’s own site , but unlike on the existing secondary sites, you will only be allowed to charge for tickets at face value or lower. A 15% surcharge will be added to each ticket in order to cover the booking fees initially paid by the seller.
In the current climate of growing legislative scrutiny of secondary markets, including the recent ban on ticket bots and action being considered by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority against secondary seller Viagogo, Ticketmaster’s decision is a canny move which distances them from the growing consumer dissatisfaction with secondary platforms.
At part of the ticketing industry, we welcome Ticketmaster’s move to close Get Me In! and Seatwave as platforms for secondary sales, which have seen consumers being charged huge premiums to get hold of tickets for events against the wishes of artists and event organisers. The announcement is a significant step in ensuring primary ticket vendors are committed to fair-value resale, and is a real testament to the tireless work of consumer protection campaigners such as FanFair Alliance and the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers.
We must continue to work together with stakeholders across the ticketing industry to protect rightsholders and gain greater transparency over resale
However, ticket scalpers and other scammers hoping to make a killing on a big-ticket item will still be able to choose to sell tickets through alternative secondary markets such as Viagogo. This shift to fan-to-fan ticket exchanges must be powered by technological innovation, helping to protect the resale of tickets and reclaim some control for artists, venues and promoters.
One of the advantages of holding tickets on the blockchain is that ticket inventory rightsholders have the ability to set rules and parameters around which secondary platforms are whitelisted (or indeed blacklisted) to resale their tickets. Minimum and maximum price caps can also be set, giving artists and ticket agents the ability to stipulate ‘face value-only’ resale.
Welcoming the Ticketmaster news, FanFair Alliance said that “while enforcement action is still urgently required to clamp down on rogue operators such as Viagogo, we are now much closer to a genuine transformation of the secondary market – where large-scale online touts are locked out, where innovation can flourish, and the resale of tickets is made straightforward, transparent and consumer-friendly.”
We must continue to work together with stakeholders across the ticketing industry to protect rightsholders and gain greater transparency over the resale of tickets, bringing more value to consumers. Only with a combined approach can consumers and rightholders be properly protected by new technology.
Annika Monari is co-founder and director of Aventus Systems.